Some tips to control your unemployment costs.

Has your business recently seen an increase in unemployment insurance taxes? You’re not alone. The good news is there are some steps you can take that will help your company control unemployment insurance costs.

Sometimes unemployment benefits are necessary. When an employee loses their job through no fault of their own, unemployment insurance can help them stay afloat until they find other employment. So maybe the problem isn’t in the cost of the insurance, but the rate at which it is being used? Here are a few tips you can use to decrease the likelihood that unemployment insurance will be needed:

HIRE SMART

Don’t jump into interviews unprepared and don’t let just anyone do the interviewing. Hiring smart means you take the necessary steps to avoid making a bad hire and paying the consequences. When you hire smart, you’ll decrease your chances that your candidate won’t be a good fit.  The best advice is to take your time. Never hire in a hurry. 

BE CONSISTENT WITH YOUR PERFORMANCE REVIEWS

Performance reviews are an opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t steal that from any of your employees. From the first day on board, every employee should be aware of their specific expectations and what repercussions may incur if they aren’t meeting those expectations. If an employee must be terminated, make sure you have given them adequate warnings and they are provided the time and resources necessary to improve their performance.

TRAIN PROPERLY

To avoid future problems, be sure to train your employees properly. Safety, anti-discrimination, and workplace behaviors should also be covered at the beginning of employment. To help with this, make sure you have an effective safety training program and a thorough employee handbook.  Ensure you have your new employees sign off on these documents and keep these records in their employee file.

HAVE CONSISTENT DISCIPLINE PROCEDURES

Your business should have a strict disciplinary action policy that all leaders follow. Even in the event of a verbal warning or one-on-one meeting, everything should be documented. Including date, time, people involved, and anything that was discussed including comments. Deal with the disciplinary procedure before you must use it.

FOLLOW CONSISTENT TERMINATION POLICIES

Ultimately, if you must resort to termination, document everything. You should already have documentation of the warnings and disciplinary actions that took place leading up to termination. Since you have been consistent with your performance reviews, the employee should not be surprised of the termination. Even so, don’t miss any steps. Provide the employee notice of the termination as soon as possible. Some states have different laws stating when an employee must be notified and when they must be paid out any remaining compensation. You should also consider an exit interview.

PROMPTLY RESPOND TO REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION

If there is a claim for unemployment benefits, provide all necessary documentation and information right away. Promptly doing your part in the situation is your best shot at a fair outcome. If the employee was terminated, provide documentation proving warnings and time/resources provided to rectify behavior. However, if the separation was voluntary, provide the unemployment agency the employee’s letter of resignation and documentation of the exit interview.

Generally, if an employee quits their job, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits. However, “he said, she said” type situations can happen. If you can’t provide proof showing the employee did leave voluntarily, they will likely be granted benefits. So, getting a resignation notice or letter and keeping any text or email messages regarding the separation is important.

As always, please reach out to UCM with any questions or concerns regarding any specific situations as soon as possible.

How many weeks of unemployment compensation are available?

Workers in most states are eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits from the regular state-funded unemployment compensation program, although nine states provide fewer weeks, and two provide more. Extended Benefits (EB) are triggered on in four states. Additional weeks of pandemic federal benefits ended in all states on September 6, 2021.

The federal-state unemployment insurance (UI) system helps many people who have lost their jobs by temporarily replacing part of their wages.  Under certain circumstances, unemployed workers who exhaust their regular state-funded unemployment benefits before they can find work can receive additional weeks of benefits.

Under the CARES Act responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, all states received access to federal funding to provide additional weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance (PEUC) benefits to people who exhausted their regular state benefits, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to many others who lost their jobs through no fault of their own but who were not normally eligible for UI in their state. These and other pandemic-related emergency UI programs ended nationwide the first weekend of September 2021, but many states stopped providing these federal benefits before that.

The table below shows the maximum number of regular plus EB benefits that are currently available in each state.

The two states providing more than the 26-week maximum are:

  • Massachusetts, which reverted to providing up to 30 weeks of UI, effective September 5, 2021, (the maximum number of weeks is reduced to 26 when a federal extended benefits program is in place as it was during the pandemic, or in periods of low unemployment such as those immediately before the pandemic); and
  • Montana, which provides up to 28 weeks of UI.

The states providing fewer than the standard 26-week maximum include:

  • Arkansas, which provides up to 16 weeks of regular benefits;
  • Michigan, which increased the maximum number of weeks to 26 earlier in the COVID-19 emergency but cut back to 20 weeks for new applicants in 2021; and
  • South Carolina and Missouri, which provide up to 20 weeks of UI.

Unemployment Rates and Weeks of Unemployment Insurance (UI) Available

State Unemployment (3-month average) Regular UI and extended benefits available
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawai’i
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virgin Islands
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
3.2
6.5
6.2
4.2
7.5
5.9
7.1
5.4
6.7
5.0
3.5
7.0
2.9
6.9
4.1
4.0
3.8
4.3
6.2
4.9
6.0
5.0
4.7
3.8
6.0
4.0
3.5
2.2
7.6
2.9
7.2
7.2
7.4
4.3
3.7
5.4
3.2
5.0
6.4
8.3
5.6
4.2
2.9
4.6
5.9
2.5
3.0
6.4
4.0
5.0
4.8
3.9
14 weeks
26+13 weeks
26 weeks
16 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26+13 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
19 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
21 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
16 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
30 weeks
20 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
20 weeks
28 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26+13 weeks
26+13 weeks
26 weeks
13 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
20 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks
26 weeks

The remaining six states periodically update their maximum weeks of UI available based on changes in the state’s unemployment rate:

  • Alabama currently provides up to 14 weeks of UI for new enrollees, with an additional five-week extension for those enrolled in a state-approved training program;
  • Georgia provides 14 weeks of UI, but in the COVID-19 emergency that has been increased to 26 weeks;
  • Florida currently provides up to 19 weeks for claims filed after January 1, 2021;
  • Idaho currently provides up to 20 weeks for new enrollees based on its August unemployment rate;
  • Kansas currently provides up to 16 weeks of UI; and
  • North Carolina currently provides up to 13 weeks for claims filed after July 4, 2021.

State laws in many states with a maximum of 26 weeks employ a sliding scale based on a worker’s earnings history to determine the maximum number of weeks for which an individual worker qualifies. Except in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawai’i, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico, many UI recipients’ maximum is fewer than 26 weeks.

The table below shows the latest three-month average unemployment rate for each state from July to September, as well as the maximum number of weeks of benefits currently available through regular UI and EB. The number of weeks of EB in a state equals the smaller of 13 weeks or half the maximum number of weeks of regular UI in the state — unless the state has adopted an alternative trigger that adds up to seven more weeks when the state’s unemployment rate triggers on a High Unemployment Period (HUP), allowing up to 20 weeks of EB (but no more than 80 percent of the number of regular weeks the state provides). No state is currently in a HUP.

Return to work bonuses will help increase employment

As vaccination rates increase and the U.S. economy rebounds, many employers are struggling to fill vacancies. To encourage Americans to return to work, some states have begun providing return-to-work bonuses to unemployment insurance beneficiaries who leave unemployment rolls and re-enter the workforce.

STATES OFFERING RETURN-TO-WORK BONUSES
• Arizona
o $2,000 full-time; $1,000 part-time
o Individuals collecting unemployment benefits as of 5/13/21, who find work for 10 weeks and earn up to $25/hour or $52,000. Work must begin by 9/6/21.

• Colorado
o $1,600 for beginning work in May; $1,200 for beginning work in June
o Individuals who received unemployment benefits between 3/28/21 and 5/16/21 and find full-time work for a minimum of eight weeks.

• Connecticut
o $1,000
o Individuals who filed an unemployment claim for the week immediately prior to 5/30/21 and work full-time for 8 weeks prior to 12/31/21. Open to first 10,000 people.

• Kentucky
o $1,500
o Individuals who were collecting unemployment as of 6/23/21 and complete at least 120 hours of work between 6/24/21 and 7/30/21. Incentive will be paid to the first 15,000 people who qualify.

• Maine
o $1,500 full-time; $750 part-time
o Open to individuals who received unemployment benefits the week ending 5/29/21, accept a full-time or part-time (20 hours or more) job that pays less than $25/hour, and remain in the job for at least eight consecutive weeks. The program begins 6/15/21 and will accept applications through 7/25/21.

• Montana
o $1,200
o Individuals collecting unemployment insurance as of 5/1/21 who then complete 4 weeks of paid work.
• New Hampshire
o $1,000 full-time; $500 part-time
o Individuals receiving unemployment benefits as of 5/18/21 who return to work for eight weeks at a job that pays $25/hour or less. First come, first served beginning on 5/18/21, out of a $10M fund.

• Oklahoma
o $1,200
o Incentives will be paid to the first 20,000 individuals receiving unemployment benefits as of 5/15/21 who work 32 hours a week or more for 6 weeks with the same employer. The program will run through 9/4/21.

• Virginia
o $1,000
o Virginia will match up to $500 that small businesses (less than 100 employees) pay to new employees to offset the ongoing costs of childcare, transportation, or other barriers to re-employment. Match is eligible for up to 25 new hires per business. Jobs must pay $15/hour or more, begin after 5/31/21, and qualify for a W-2.

THE RED TAPE OF RETURN-TO-WORK BONUSES
Are return-to-work bonuses an appropriate substitute for unemployment insurance bonuses? There is a limit to how certain policymakers can be about this substitute when the effects of unemployment insurance bonuses themselves are unclear. Return-to-work bonuses seem like a great solution in theory. They continue to provide people with additional financial support while incentivizing them to rejoin the labor force. In practice, however, they can be difficult to implement and many people who should be eligible for the bonuses will not receive them.
Each state has a slightly different program design for a return-to-work bonus, but the basic structure is similar. Anyone receiving unemployment insurance as of a certain date who starts a new job, and stays in that job for several weeks (ranging from 4 weeks in Montana to 10 weeks in Arizona), is eligible for a payment ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 for full-time work.
Unfortunately, states have yet to publicly reveal exactly how people are expected to document that they have started a new job and stayed with it for the required amount of time. While some states may have accurate databases that allow them to use payroll or similar data to confirm tenure at a new job, it’s more likely that the burden of proof will fall on employees. New hires will have to contact the state’s office, provide documentation in the form of payroll stubs or a letter from their employer to prove that they have worked, and then wait for that information to be processed.

Each of these steps creates friction that could make life more difficult for these employees. New hires may feel uncomfortable pushing their boss to email them the required documents. Bosses could also use this government-provided incentive as a way of having more power over new employees, for example, by requiring them to work extra hours uncompensated to receive the necessary paperwork.

This friction will slow down the process of providing people with the bonus, or simply make it so that many people are unable to apply altogether. Some new employees simply will not hear about these new programs. Others may be dissuaded from applying. As we learned last year, many state departments of labor can take months to process unemployment claims. Processing these new claims of employment could take even longer. A person who takes a new job in July is unlikely to receive their bonus until October or later. This delay decreases the motivational impact of the incentive (unemployed people will need money in the short term) and is also likely to be mistimed from a macroeconomic perspective.

Moreover, many states have put limits on how many people will receive the bonus. For example, Kentucky will only provide bonuses to the first 15,000 people who qualify, and New Hampshire has set aside a 10 million dollar fund for the program. As a result, people who should qualify may apply, but not in time to actually receive the payment.

CUT THE PAPERWORK

A better alternative would be for states to eliminate the requirement that people document that they have stayed in their new job altogether. States could either provide the bonus immediately upon someone exiting the unemployment insurance system or (for states that are continuing to participate in the federal programs) simply continue to pay people unemployment insurance for the last few months of the program even after they have found work. In other words, instead of adding a new process where states need to document and verify employment, they should simply stop verifying unemployment.

If we want people to return to work, the immediate incentive of the salary provided by a job is very attractive on its own. Additional payments contingent on a lengthy paperwork process that may not even go through are not going to get people back to work.

WHAT CAN AN EMPLOYER DO TO HELP THE EMPLOYEE?

• Know what benefits are available for employees in your state.
• Know what information is needed from you to provide to your employees.
• Have someone dedicated to answering employee questions regarding benefits and respond in a timely manner due.
• Reach out to UCM Specialists for any additional information or questions you may have.

FAQS ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS BY STATE

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Alabama?
Not currently. Governor Kay Ivey (R) announced on May 10, 2021 that Alabama will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Alaska?
Not currently. Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R) Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner, Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter, announced on May 14, 2021, that Alaska will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 12, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Arizona?
Yes. Governor Doug Ducey (R) announced on May 13, 2021 that Arizona will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on July 10, 2021. Funds will be used for Return-To-Work bonuses for Arizonans who were collecting unemployment insurance prior to the announcement. One-time payments will be $2,000 for individuals who rejoin the workforce at a full-time job and $1,000 for part-time. Each will be paid out after completing a minimum of 10 weeks of work. To qualify, recipients must also make $25 per hour or less, equivalent to a yearly salary of $52,000, at their new job, and must begin working by September 6, 2021.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Arkansas?
Not currently. Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) announced on May 7, 2021 that Arkansas will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in California?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Colorado?
Yes. In addition to pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits being due to continue until September 6, 2021, Governor Jared Polis (D) announced on May 19, 2021 that Colorado will use the Colorado Jumpstart Incentive to provide $1,600 to individuals beginning work in May and $1,200 to individuals beginning work in June. The incentive is available to individuals who received unemployment benefits between 3/28/21 and 5/16/21 and find full-time work for a minimum of eight weeks.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Connecticut?
Yes. In addition to pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits being due to continue until September 6, 2021, Governor Ned Lamont (D) announced on May 17, 2021 that Connecticut’s Back To Work CT Program will provide $1,000 bonus payments to 10,000 individuals who filed an unemployment claim for the week immediately prior to May 30, 2021 and work full-time for eight weeks prior to 12/31/21.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Delaware?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in the District of Columbia?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Florida?
Not currently. Governor Ron DeSantis’ (R) Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Dane Eagle, announced on May 24, 2021 that Florida will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Georgia?
Not currently. Governor Brian Kemp (R) announced on May 13, 2021 that Georgia will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Hawaii?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Idaho?
Not currently. Governor Brad Little (R) announced on May 11, 2021 that Idaho will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Illinois?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Indiana?
Not currently. Governor Eric Holcomb (R) announced on May 17, 2021 that Indiana will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. After a lawsuit was filed and the cancellation was delayed, a judge ordered on 6/25/21 that Indiana must continue paying the benefits. The state is appealing the decision. A return-to-work benefit has not been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Iowa?
Not currently. Governor Kim Reynolds (R) announced on May 11, 2021 that Iowa will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 12, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Kansas?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Kentucky?
Yes. In addition to pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits being due to continue until September 6, 2021, Governor Andy Beshear (D) announced on June 24, 2021 that Kentucky’s Back To Work Incentive will provide $1,500 bonus payments to the first 15,000 individuals who qualify. To qualify, individuals must have been collecting unemployment as of June 23, 2021, and complete at least 120 hours of work between June 24, 2021, and July 30, 2021.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Louisiana?
Not currently. Governor John Bel Edwards (D) announced on June 16, 2021 that Louisiana will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on July 31, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Maine?
Yes. In addition to pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits being due to continue until September 6, 2021, Governor Janey Mills’ (D) Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman announced an update to Maine’s Back To Work Grant Program on July 1, 2021. The program will provide $1,500 to individuals who begin full-time work between June 15th-July 25th, and $750 to individuals who begin part-time (20 hours or more) during that time period. The program is open to individuals who received unemployment benefits the week ending May 29, 2021, accept a full-time or part-tome job that pays less than $25/hour, and remain in the job for at least eight consecutive weeks. The program begins June 15, 2021, and will accept applications through July 25, 2021.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Maryland?
Not currently. Governor Larry Hogan (R) announced on June 1, 2021 that Maryland will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on July 3, 2021. After a lawsuit was filed and the cancellation was delayed, a judge ordered on 7/3/21 that Maryland must continue paying the benefits. The state is appealing the decision. A return-to-work benefit has not been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Massachusetts?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Michigan?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Minnesota?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Mississippi?
Not currently. Governor Tate Reeves (R) announced on May 10, 2021, that Mississippi will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 12, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Missouri?
Not currently. Governor Mike Parson (R) announced on May 11, 2021 that Missouri will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 12, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Montana?
Yes. Governor Greg Gianforte (R) announced on May 4, 2021 that Montana will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 27, 2021. Funds will be used for a $1,200 Return-To-Work Bonus initiative. Individuals who were receiving unemployment benefits as of May 4, 2021, and subsequently accepted employment will receive the payment after completing a minimum of four paid weeks of work.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Nebraska?
Not currently. Governor Pete Rickets (R) announced on May 24, 2021 that Nebraska will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Nevada?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in New Hampshire?
Yes. Governor Chris Sununu (R) announced on May 18, 2021, that New Hampshire will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. Instead, New Hampshire has established a ‘Summer Stipend’ program paying out $1,000 to individuals who rejoin the workforce at a full-time job and $500 for part-time. To qualify, recipients must have been collecting unemployment insurance as of May 18, 2021, take a job that earns $25 an hour or less, and stay at the job for at least eight weeks. The payments will be on a first come, first served basis, paid out of $10M fund.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in New Jersey?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in New Mexico?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in New York?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in North Carolina?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in North Dakota?
Not currently. Governor Doug Burgum (R) announced on May 10, 2021 that North Dakota will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Ohio?
Not currently. Governor Mike DeWine (R) announced on May 13, 2021 that Ohio will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Oklahoma?
Yes. Governor Kevin Stitt (R) announced on May 17, 2021 that Oklahoma will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. Funds will instead go towards a $1,200 ‘Return to Work Incentive’ for Oklahomans who were collecting unemployment insurance prior to the announcement. Payments will be distributed to the first 20,000 individuals who rejoin the workforce before September 4, 2021, and complete 6 consecutive weeks of employment of 32 hours a week or more with the same employer.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Oregon?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Pennsylvania?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Rhode Island?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in South Carolina?
Not currently. Governor Henry McMaster (R) announced on May 6, 2021 that South Carolina will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 30, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in South Dakota?
Not currently. Governor Kristi Noem (R) announced on May 12, 2021, that South Dakota will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Tennessee?
Not currently. Governor Bill Lee (R) announced on May 11, 2021 that Tennessee will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on July 3, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Texas?
Not currently. Governor Greg Abbott (R) announced on May 17, 2021 that Texas will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Utah?
Not currently. Governor Spencer Cox (R) announced on May 12, 2021 that Utah will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 26, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Vermont?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Virginia?
Yes. In addition to pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits being due to continue until September 6, 2021, Ralph Northam (D) announced on June 11, 2021 that Virginia’s Return To Earn Grant Program will match up to $500 that small businesses (less than 100 employees) pay to new employees to offset the ongoing costs of child care, transportation, or other barriers to re-employment. Matches are eligible for up to 25 new hires per business. Jobs must pay $15/hr or more, begin after 5/31/21, and qualify for a W-2.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Washington?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in West Virginia?
Not currently. Governor Jim Justice (R) announced on May 14, 2021 that West Virginia will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Wisconsin?
Not currently. Pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits are due to continue until September 6, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

Will a return-to-work incentive be provided in Wyoming?
Not currently. Governor Mark Gordon (R) announced on May 12, 2021 that Wyoming will end pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits on June 19, 2021. No return-to-work benefit has been announced.

There are 22 states that will be ending extra unemployment benefits early

Federal benefits are about to disappear for millions of unemployed workers nationwide, much earlier than expected. See below for the states declaring an end to the extended unemployment benefits, and the dates they will expire.

WHEN WERE BENEFITS SUPPOSED TO END AND WHY ARE SOME ENDING EARLY?

Under the American Rescue Plan that was passed in March, unemployed workers were to receive unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021. The list below shows the states starting to opt out from this federal program which had been extended during the pandemic. Some will lose access to these benefits as early as June 12.
Governors in the states that are ending benefits are concerned the extra money is preventing workers from applying for jobs and saying employers should raise pay to attract workers.

STATES ENDING FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EARLY

Alabama: June 19
Alaska: June 12
Arizona: July 10*
Arkansas: June 26
Georgia: June 26
Idaho: June 19
Indiana: July 19
Iowa: June 12
Mississippi: June 12
Missouri: June 12
Montana: June 27*
New Hampshire: June 19
North Dakota: June 19
Ohio: June 26
Oklahoma: June 26
South Carolina: end of June
South Dakota: June 26
Tennessee: July 3
Texas: June 26
Utah: June 26
West Virginia: June 19
Wyoming: June 19
*Arizona and Montana are offering additional stipends or return-to-work bonuses with the loss of expanded benefits.

WHAT PROGRAMS ARE AFFECTED BY THE EARLY EXPIRATION?

The Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) federal supplement of $300 per week
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits for gig workers not usually eligible for unemployment insurance
The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) established by the CARES Act for long-term unemployed who have surpassed the standard number of weeks allotted for state benefits

WHAT CAN YOU DO IF THIS AFFECTS YOU?

Cutting any benefits during such uncertain times leaves unemployed workers vulnerable. Here are some things to keep in mind if your benefits are ending early:

You can still qualify for your state’s normal unemployment benefits if you lose your job or remain unemployed. Only the extended federal benefits established during the pandemic are set to expire September 6, or earlier depending on your state.

Stay connected with your local unemployment office. They will always be a source for any updates in new benefits and will be able to let you know what benefits may be available to you. They are also a source for job re-entry programs, training opportunities, and have access to a current job opening database.

The CDC has extended the eviction moratorium until at least June 30. Depending on your state, you may also qualify for rental assistance or utility forgiveness.

Contact any lenders you owe money to and see if you qualify for any of their assistance programs. Most are willing to work with you during this time.

SNAP and TANF, two food assistance programs, can help supplement your spending.

You may qualify for assistance or subsidized care through state and local initiatives for help with affordable childcare.

How can I get employees to work during a pandemic?

In a matter of months, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people work, live, socialize, and more. The surreal new normal has altered personal and professional lives on short notice.

Many employers are now starting to adjust their benefits and incentive packages to lure their employees back to the traditional workplace environment.

WHY ARE SO MANY EMPLOYEES RELUCTANT TO RETURN TO WORK?

There are several reasons employees are choosing to stay at home during the pandemic. Employee safety is the main reason. CDC, Federal, and State recommendations contribute to employee concerns. Relaxed unemployment compensation requirements are another. The safety and well-being of everyone needs to be considered. Do you have safety protocols in place so your employees know they can come to work worry-free?

In some cases where remote work is available, sometimes employees become accustomed to this change and prefer this due to having more flexibility, especially if they have a family and childcare is an expense. When remote work is not available, or no longer available due to restrictions being lifted, employers sometimes need to entice their employees back to work.

WHAT ARE SOME INCENTIVES TO PROVIDE EMPLOYEES TO RETURN TO WORK?

Ensure you have a Covid-19 Safety Policy and Procedure in place accessible to employees
Offer free or reduced parking and/or fuel reimbursement
Offer free bus passes or a pick-up/drop-off shuttle
Provide flexible working arrangements
Hybrid work from home days
Compressed work week – longer hours, shorter days
Provide support to working parents or childcare stipends
Implement mental health and wellness programs
Hero/Hazzard Pay – pay increase for employees deemed as essential
Recruit retired/former staff
Simple thank you emails or cards
Create a relaxation room in addition to your normal break room
Free lunches, take-home meals, or access to meal programs
Arrange for food truck days
Offer bonuses

DO YOUR EMPLOYEES KNOW THEIR WORK ENVIRONMENT IS SAFE?

A covid-19 policy and procedure is key to your employees knowing you care about their safety and you have provided them with information on ways to reduce risk on the job. In addition to this, a separate training should be implemented and required of all employees reporting back at work.
Since safety is a number one concern, if employees do not feel safe, or feel like you are putting other things above their safety, this will discourage employees from coming back to work.

TRANSPORTATION BENEFITS ARE A BIG DEAL

With the shift to remote work, telecommuters are often fitting the bill for the burden of day-to-day utility costs. This has created a windfall, at times, for companies. However, some organizations are reinvesting these savings on their employees.

At the same time, employees are also saving plenty of time and money without the daily commute and more. Historically, employees have nearly two hours each week commuting to and from the office, per the US Census Bureau. As part of the transition back to the traditional office, some employers are offering a few incentives to offset the cost of the daily commute.

Some companies are promising to reimburse fuel and transportation costs, including parking for all returning workers. Others are providing employees with free bus passes during the pandemic.

WHEN THE NORMAL WORK WEEK TRANSFORMS WITH THE TIMES

Have you thought about what it means to work a normal work week? Probably not in a while. With the adjustment of having to come back to work, some companies are opting to provide a hybrid schedule with some office days and some remote days. This allows the adjustment of mainly working from home but giving the employee a little more time before a full adjustment (perhaps with childcare plans) back to work.

A compressed work week is also an option. Instead of working five 8-hour days, why not offer your employees a four 10-hour workday or even a three 13.5-hour workday (adjusting those times longer for your normal lunches). This allows employees to have those off days as free time instead of having to work remote some days.

SOMETIMES ALL WE NEED IS SUPPORT

Two types of support are very important during this time. Childcare support and mental health and wellness support. Parents have been pushed and pulled so many ways during the pandemic, especially with school situations being remote and sometimes going back and forth in person/remote. Employees need to know you understand their situation and if providing monetary childcare incentives is not an option, at least being as flexible as you can with their schedules.

If you don’t have your own health and wellness program, do some research, and find some resources you can share with your employees. Everyone is stressed out right now so providing some resources also shows you understand.

THE SIMPLEST THINGS CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE

While it might not seem like a big deal, just a thank you or welcome back can really turn someone’s negative day into a positive one. Weekly, personal thank you e-mails are great. If your budget allows, why not have snacks for your group or a day or two where you have breakfast and/or lunch served? Plan a food truck day where you have 2 or 3 different food trucks stop in your parking lot and allow your employees extra time to enjoy the food and outdoors.

Everyone loves a bonus too! Even with the economy where it is right now, some companies are doing very well. Why not pass that on to your employees? Even small $50 gift cards here and there will show you are glad to have your team back.

Fraudulent Unemployment Claims Continue to Rise

WHY ARE FRAUDULENT UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS RISING?

Criminals are taking advantage of today’s high unemployment rate and hoping to slip fraudulent unemployment claims past overwhelmed state workers. With the high number of claims, it is also likely that fraud investigations will take longer, and criminals can cash in on profits in the interim. This year has been particularly difficult since the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed bypassed some of the standard safeguards such as verification using previous employers.

Many people find fraudulent unemployment claims particularly upsetting since it requires a Social Security Number (SSN). If you are under the impression that your SSN is secure information, sadly, it is not. After the myriad high-profile data breaches, especially the 2017 Equifax breach, there are millions of SSNs available for sale on the dark web for as little as $4.

While states are trying to tighten identity verification standards, it is a struggle to balance adopting enhanced security measures without causing significant verification delays that impact legitimate claims from workers who have lost their jobs and need funds quickly.

WHAT SHOULD I DO ABOUT SUSPECTED UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD?

There has been a spike in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims complaints related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic involving the use of stolen personally identifiable information (PII).

U.S. citizens from several states have been victimized by criminal actors impersonating the victims and using the victims’ stolen identities to submit fraudulent unemployment insurance claims online. The criminals obtain the stolen identity using a variety of techniques, including the online purchase of stolen PII, previous data breaches, computer intrusions, cold-calling victims while using impersonation scams, email phishing schemes, physical theft of data from individuals or third parties, and from public websites and social media accounts, among other methods. Criminal actors will use third parties or persuade individuals who are victims of other scams or frauds to transfer fraudulent funds to accounts controlled by criminals.

Many victims of identity theft related to unemployment insurance claims do not know they have been targeted until they try to file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits, receive a notification from the state unemployment insurance agency, receive an IRS Form 1099-G showing the benefits collected from unemployment insurance, or get notified by their employer that a claim has been filed while the victim is still employed.

Be on the lookout for the following suspicious activities:

 Receiving communications regarding unemployment insurance forms when you have not applied for unemployment benefits
 Unauthorized transactions on your bank or credit card statements related to unemployment benefits
 Any fees involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance
 Unsolicited inquires related to unemployment benefits
 Fictitious websites and social media pages mimicking those of government agencies

Tips on how to protect yourself:

 Be wary of telephone calls and text messages, letters, websites, or emails that require you to provide your personal information or other sensitive information, especially birth dates and Social Security numbers. Be cautious with attachments and embedded links within email, especially from an unknown email sender.
 Make yourself aware of methods fraudsters are using to obtain PII and how to combat them by following security tips issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, including:
o Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks
o Protecting Against Malicious Code
o Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft

 Monitor your bank accounts on a regular basis and request your credit report at least once a year to look for any fraudulent activity. If you believe you are a victim, review your credit report more frequently.

 Immediately report unauthorized transactions to your financial institution or credit card provider.
 If you suspect you are a victim, immediately contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records. Additionally, notify the Internal Revenue Service by filing an Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) through irs.gov or identitytheft.gov.

WHAT EMPLOYERS CAN DO (VIA UCM Specialists)

 Respond timely to UCM claim requests and denote suspected fraud claims so we can respond to the state agency
 UCM will monitor your tax account for fraudulent charges
 UCM is working with state agencies regarding any of our clients experiencing fraud claims
 UCM will assist with any client’s employees who may be experiencing fraud

RELATED NEWS:

 AP News: Data Breach Compromised Info of 1M-Plus Who Sought Benefits
 Government Technology: Unemployment Benefits Claims Fraud: New Threats for 2021

Wyoming Employer Unemployment Update

Important information about Unemployment Insurance

The Department of Workforce Services is working to implement the COVID-19 relief programs authorized by Congress and President Trump at the end of 2020. We have received guidance from the United States Department of Labor regarding these programs. The next step is to reprogram the Unemployment Insurance computer system. That process involves rewriting a great deal of computer code, testing the changes to ensure they are working correctly, and repeating the process until we are sure the system will process claims correctly. Rushing the process would increase the chances a claimant would be denied UI benefits incorrectly or approving a claimant who later is determined to be ineligible, causing that person to have to pay back all the money distributed to him or her. It may take several weeks or even longer than a month to complete the changes to the computer system.

Please note that there are different processes to follow, depending on the type of claim you are receiving. To determine which type of UI a claimant is receiving, navigate to the Inquiry page on WYUI.wyo.gov. The Inquiry page will display the type of claim being received.

PA Unemployment Compensation Update – Benefit Charge Credit/Adjustments from Automatic Relief from Charges due to COVID19

Pursuant to Act 9 of 2020 that Governor Wolf signed into law on 3/27/2020, contributory employers and reimbursable employers who have an approved 2020 solvency fee election were to receive automatic relief from charges for those employees whose UC claims are due to the COVID-19 outbreak or public health officials’ efforts to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Contributory employers and reimbursable employers who have paid the solvency fee for calendar year 2020 did not have to apply for relief from these COVID-19 related charges.

The benefit charge credits/adjustments from the automatic relief from charges for eligible claims for Article XI reimbursable employers that have an approved 2020 solvency fee election were included on the Statement of Account dated 11/11/2020. For Article X and Article XII reimbursable employers with an approved 2020 solvency fee election, the benefit charge credits/adjustments will be processed in the beginning of January 2021 and appear on the Statement of Account dated 1/11/2021.

The benefit charge credits/adjustments for contributory employers have been processed and their reserve account ledger updated accordingly. To view your reserve account ledger, login to your account, or register for a user ID to login to your account, at www.uctax.pa.gov. After logging in select the Financial Activities option from the menu on the left and then the Ledgers sub-menu option. Select the Reserve Account tab to view the summary of your reserve account ledger and your current reserve account balance.

If you have questions on benefit charging or relief from charges, we have provided some relevant information in the below graphic. You can also visit the relief from charges FAQ page on our website at https://www.uc.pa.gov/faq/Employer/Pages/Relief-from-Charges-FAQS.aspx.

COVID – WHERE DO EMPLOYERS GO FROM HERE?

2020 has been a year of attrition by all means. HR managers are all abated with managing business and without the standard rulebook. As we enter the 4th quarter taxes, charges, staffing, sales, and now COVID workforce outbreaks are all prevalent on our mind. In this newsletter we will attempt to break down three of the aforementioned stressors and provide information to aide you in navigating the final stretch before ending this pandemic year.

What to expect: 4th Quarter 2020 Charges

Important Information: PA UI RELIEF FROM CHARGES
COVID-19 Relief from Charges for Employers
((This information is taken directly from PA UI Website 10/27/2020))
We are aware that employers’ UC-640 charge statements are indicating that employers are being charged for all benefits. All charges which are a result of separation due to COVID-19 will receive credits, retroactively. You do NOT need to contact us, and you do NOT need to send in any paper work. The department is working on the programming needed to grant automatic relief from charges. Benefit charging will resume after the governor declares an end to the pandemic disaster. The UC-640 charge statement shows you all the individuals you would otherwise be charged for if they continue filing benefits after the disaster is ended.
Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act (S.4209)
On August 3, 2020, the Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act was enacted into law. This Act amends the CARES Act and now allows for reimbursable employers that are eligible to receive reimbursement (those that did not pay the Solvency Fee for calendar year 2020) to only pay 50% of the amount due on eligible benefit charges. Previously the CARES Act required that 100% of the benefit charges for the billing period be paid before the 50% reimbursement could be applied. The Department will post the reimbursement to the billing period once the funding for that billing period has been received from the US Treasury. The reimbursement amount will be reflected as a payment/credit on your account and will be applied to the appropriate billing period. If an overpayment exists after the 50% reimbursement is applied, a credit will be created that may be used to pay future benefit charge amounts due.
Questions regarding this information may be directed to the UC Employer Contact Center at 1-866-403-6163 which is staffed weekdays, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.

Many states are following this protocol. UCM is staying abreast of this information.
Be assured that as your UI tax professionals we will be vigilant in auditing, verifying, and assuring that your UI tax account is not overcharged and the terms the states have set is enforced and applied.

The time has never been more important to have UCM’s tax auditing services.

What to expect: The Workplace and Creating a Bubble

2020 has without argument changed many systems in healthcare, logistic, and certainly retail industries. Many businesses have tried to have their workforce work from home.

We feel the one industry to open to an efficient modified operation plan is professional sports. Surprisingly enough the work bubble has worked for staffing applications. Understanding that in other business controlling and restricting your employee’s whereabouts is not an option, working from home is an option.

Have a plan to limit, control, and moderate any outbreaks that are most probable in the winter months. If employees must report to the workplace, take a note from first responders in limiting exposure to sources outside the workplace and the home.
We suggest creating a personalized memo that affirms your appreciation for them and outlining the importance of their part in staying healthy. UCM has HR and legal professionals to assist you if you would like to create a personalized memo.

In short, the memo should contain the following components:
a. Note your company’s appreciation for their dedication that the sacrifice that they will make in staying healthy while participating in a productive workforce.
b. Give guidelines set forth from professionals for mask wearing, hand washing, ventilation, and limiting outside exposure at social gatherings. This is especially important for workplace employees.
c. Set goals and outline expectations on sales quotas or other productivity barometers that will also serve as a visual aide.
d. Offer employee COVID testing, take temperatures as employees enter a workplace. The goal is to maintain and retain accountability. Offer all the necessary health equipment to assist employees with maintaining a COVID free 4th and 1st quarter.

UCM Provides Clients with COVID-19 Relief

With the already negative impact of COVID-19 on employers nationwide, UCM has waived all excess unemployment claim fees for claims processed that are related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many vendors are charging employers overage fees during this difficult time, adding additional negative financial impacts. UCM will not be charing excess claim fees, or any additional service costs during the pandemic. Additionally, there will be no hidden future charges as a result of COVID-19.

The main goal right now is to provide as much relief as possible to clients. Through providing timely responses to COVID-19 claims, ensuring the appropriate auditing of any charges that result from these claims,  and offering exceptional client service are just a few ways UCM is providing additional ROI.

If you have any questions regarding your unemployment account, or need additional assistance, please e-mail us at info@ucmspecialists.com or reach out to your dedicated account management team.